In a book review by ISESCO: Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Initiative for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures: Achievements and Future Prospects
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) published a book in Arabic, with French and English translations, titled “Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Initiative for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures: Achievements and Future Prospects”. The book was initially a critical review prepared by ISESCO and adopted by the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers at its seventh session held in Algiers in December 2011.
In his foreword to the book, ISESCO Director General Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri wrote, “The profound changes the world has undergone at the end of 19th century, coupled with the rapid mutations witnessed by humanity at the dawn of the Third Millennium, have brought about a new generation of ideas to promote world peace and secure a safe future for mankind where harmony, coexistence and dialogue would prevail among the followers of religions, cultures and civilizations.”
The foreword confirmed that it was amid this constantly changing trend of ideas aiming to redress international relationships and reinforce rapprochement, understanding and acquaintanceship among peoples and nations, that the UN General Assembly adopted, in 1998, a resolution proclaiming the year 2001 as the United Nation Year of Dialogue among Civilizations).
Four years later, the foreword went on, these ideas having substantially matured and permeated world public opinion, the UN adopted the concept of the Alliance of Civilizations. It is in this context that former UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan established the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, an organ tasked with setting to motion this idea.
Dr Altwaijri added, “Amid escalating hostility, racism, discrimination and religious disdain, the need was ever more urgent for a strong, daring and balanced initiative to foster dialogue among the followers of religions and cultures, and promote the values of dialogue and peace culture the world over.”
He further said, “It is in this context that the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Dialogue among the Followers of Religions and Cultures has come, as a significant contribution to the global effort being made to address the dangers threatening to undermine the stability of human societies, mainly because of escalating hostility, racism and enmity, coupled with ever-growing hot-spots of international tension, especially in the Muslim world.”
As a matter of fact, Dr Altwaijri went on, this initiative has evolved through three main phases: the first, was the International Islamic Conference Dialogue, held in June 2008 in Makkah Al Mukarramah; the second was the World Congress on Interfaith Dialogue, held in July 2008 in Madrid; and the third was the High-Level Meeting for Dialogue among Religions, Cultures and Civilizations, held in November 2008 at the UN Headquarters in New York. Dr Altwaijri argued, “The focus during these three phases was on how to find a practical way to set into motion the initiative.” It is in this spirit that the International Centre for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue was established in Vienna, as part of the global engagement to best translate into action the Initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in its being an invaluable conduit for genuine dialogue, at all levels, between the followers of human cultures and civilizations, within creative cultural diversity, he underlined.
The foreword explained, “In a bid to push forth the initiative on a global scale and stimulate research in dialogue, and in recognition of the outstanding efforts in this area, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia established the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Prize for Dialogue of Civilizations. This, along with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Programme for the Culture of Dialogue and Peace, which was set up by UNESCO, will help enlarge the scope for this breakthrough initiative launched as part of contribution to the effort to promote peace, tolerance and harmony in the world.”
Dr Altwaijri added, stressing the importance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Initiative, “Given the international acclaim the initiative has received, as a true embodiment of the Muslim world’s view to the dialogue issues that are raised in international conferences; and with the view to promote this initiative in the Muslim world, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) presented to the 7th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Algiers, December 2011) a document pertaining to the Initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Dialogue among the Followers of Religions and Cultures.” The document underlines the religious, cultural, civilizational and human dimensions of the initiative, situating it within a broader vision that is expressive of the principles underpinning the Islamic civilization’s perception of dialogue as a means for greater cooperation between peoples and nations. After discussion and adoption of the document, the Conference commissioned ISESCO to follow up implementation of recommendations made in this context, he further said.
The Director General stated at the end of the foreword, “ISESCO is therefore pleased to publish this document in a single edition in the Arabic, English and French languages. The objective is to contribute to widely circulating this historic, pioneering initiative to the large community of researchers, scholars, journalists, religious leaderships and intellectuals.”